, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 371-376
Date: 13 Nov 2012

Cases and Culture

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In Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill wrote that “[t]here exists no moral system under which there do not arise unequivocal cases of conflicting obligation” (1957, ¶2.25). This is what makes the practice—as well as the teaching—of bioethics so difficult and the reason that many students and members of the general populace are wont to believe that doing “the right thing” is relativistic. Engaging in careful, protracted moral reflection, particularly in cases that clearly present such “conflicting obligation,” is hard. It is intellectually and emotionally taxing as well as time-consuming, requiring material resources and ongoing, honest dialogue with others. Unfortunately, our modern systems of biomedicine that train health care professionals are hard-pressed to include in curricula (in meaningful and lasting ways) “people skills,” communication skills, and cultural competence, not to mention the philosophical foundations of ethics that might guide practitioners through tough cases. There